After writing about Samhain this year, I discovered that I have never written/shared about the Winter Solstice here on my blog. I’m going to experiment with using that Samhain blog as the template to revisit all the Festivals through until the Autumn Equinox next year.
It’s a good plan 🙃
Just a reminder, I’m in the Southern Hemisphere, and I choose to observe the Wheel of the Year in its ‘flipped‘ version from the traditional Northern Hemisphere dates. That means whilst the Northern Hemisphere celebrates the Summer Solstice, in the Southern Hemisphere, we are celebrating the Winter Solstice.
The way the Sacred Moments are connected between the Hemispheres is, in my view, Sacred Balance. The Summer Solstice is inherent in my Winter Solstice observations and vice versa. This is the case for all the festivals but for me, it is especially true with the solar festivals; the Solstices and Equinoxes.
At the end of the blog, I’ll share some resources around the Sacred Moments in Australia.
Secondly, instead of the traditional dates, I also observe what my friend Dr Glenys Livingstone calls “the Cosmic Moments”.
I recommend checking out some of the blog posts written by Glenys too.
Winter Solstice Sacred Moment
The actual Moment for the Winter Solstice was today, June 21st 19:14 EST Australia.
All global times are available at archaeoastronomy.com.
Whilst there aren’t “traditional” dates as such, there is still variation!
The summer solstice occurs once a year in December when the Sun’s track across the Australian sky reaches its highest point. It is the day that has the most daylight hours of any in the year. The summer solstice usually occurs on 22 December, but can occur between 21 and 23 December. The winter solstice is the day of the year that has the least daylight hours of any in the year and usually occurs on 22 June but can occur between 21 and 23 June.Geoscience Australia
Melbourne / Naarm traditional season.
Thirdly, Naarm has 6 or 7 seasons.
Like Samhain, the Winter Solstice falls in Wombat Season (April-August).
Deep Winter- June, mid July
This cold time of the year slowed down but did not stop plant growth. Animals such as Echidnas were breeding, birds nesting. The flats near the rivers and creeks were often flooded; and the low lands generally were wet and cold, and unsuitable for camping, so people moved to the best sheltered spots on the uplands, where they were able to catch koalas, possums, and wombats, and to find grubs in the trees The leaves of the water plants had become dry and brown, but the small tuberous herbs were green and growing; the roots of both were good food. Fragrant nectar came from BURGILBURGIL, Honey-pots, Acrotriche serrulata, a small shrub which hid its flowers close to the ground. BULAIT- Cherry Ballart formed fruit. People constructed good bark WILLAMS (shelters) and kept fires burning for warmth. They wrapped themselves in rugs made from possum skins.SEASONAL CALENDARS FOR THE MELBOURNE AREA
Compiled by Dr. Beth Gott of the School of Biological Sciences, Monash University.
Last Quarter Moon
Today is the day we enter into the Last Quarter of the Moon.
So tonight, if the sky is clear, a small crescent will be visible.
The next New Moon will be on the 29th June at 12:52.
I mark the Dark Moon as the night before, but again, there are lots of variations as to how people observe the Lunar calender. Some people don’t consider it a New Moon until you an see the crescent in the sky. I live in Melbourne, there is frequently cloud cover, so I go with the times.
Observing the Phases of the Moon is part of my devotional practice. I find this practice helps keep me grounded and open to appreciating beauty and moments of awe and wonder. It also helps me move through particularly unpleasant times in my life.
Brief overview/backstory of the Winter Solstice for me
In summary, I consider myself a solitary devotional polytheist. My religious practice has changed and evolved over 45 years since I was first introduced to religious studies.
The Winter Solstice for me starts with Solstice Eve (the night before the Solstice), and continues through for 12 days after (which neatly takes me to my birthday on July 03rd).
One of the primary themes of the Winter Solstice for me is that of reflection upon the year that was and on the year to come. This is probably largely driven by my birthday being on the 12th Day (of Yule).
The other theme is the return of the light – the days get noticeably longer pretty quickly, but June/July are the coldest months in Australia, so there’s this theme of being in darkness, of rest, the final point of turning in before we turn our faces towards the Sun again.
There is beauty in emptiness,
And in the skeleton of trees against the darkening blue of dusk’s sky.
When my teeth chatter in the Winter’s Wind, remind me of this,
Mysterious Ones* who dwell in the dark as well as the light.Ceisiwr Serith “A Pagan Ritual Prayer Book”
*Change from God to Mysterious Ones
Christmas in July
In Australia, there are also many “Christmas in July” traditions.
This is born from the fact that the colonisers of this country were from the Northern Hemisphere, but the traditional Christmas / Yule concepts of snow, fireplaces, warm and nourishing foods, mulled wine, etc don’t make much sense when Christmas (as in 25th December) is celebrated just after the Summer Solstice here.
Trust me, it is continually attempted!
Eucalypt branches with cotton wool to imitate snow, ‘fake’ snow sprays, snowflake decorations… I grew up in Far West Queensland, I have only seen snow three times in my life!
It’s only now that many people are moving away from the full cooked Christmas lunch to something more place appropriate. So the whole “Christmas in July” gives space to those Northern Hemisphere traditions in a more seasonally appropriate alignment.
Reflections 2020 & 2021
Winter Solstice last year (2021)
At the Solstice last year I received my surgical date for my bilateral mastectomy and DIEP flap reconstruction. That completely focused me on the surgical date of July 12th. Any deeper marking of the Solstice or my 51st birthday was lost.
I had moved to the new rental, my first night was the 06th June. Which, coincidentally, was the night before the initial scheduling of the surgery.
We were still moving, cleaning up the old place, and there was a desperate push now to be organised for July 12th so that I was set up for a successful recovery.
Given how sick I have been and how slow my recovery and convalescence has been, I am very grateful for the precautions I took.
There’s a lot to indicate that religious faith is a significant resilience factor. I know that I wasn’t very happy about being in the position that meant my rituals, observations, devotional practice, and meditation for Winter Solstice 2021 was so miserable and minimal.
One thing I did manage to do as part of my Winter Solstice rituals was a plaster cast of my breasts 1.6, knowing that I had a bilateral mastectomy ahead of me due to the cancers.
Rejuvenate, Renew, Return, Recalibrate, Recover, Recouperate, Rest, Rebirth, Reconnect
In 2020, I had a more ‘normal’ Solstice time. I stayed up all night Solstice Eve and witnessed the dawn for Solstice Eve, Solstice Day, and the dawn of the next day.
I normally schedule leave where I can around the eight Festivals so that I have the day before, day of, and day after off. It’s something I have done for over a decade now and it’s valuable to me.
I make a point of being a little more social at this time; celebrating connections and Beloveds. That might be brunches, facetime, messages. Typically, I send out a Winter Solstice message via sms / messenger / social media; it might be the day before, the day after, or the day of the Solstice itself. It’s one of my check-in points with people (usually winter Solstice, Summer Solstice, Gregorian New Year).
COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns
In 2018, I started this blog with the Winter Solstice, and I also started wrapping full time as part of my devotional practice.
The theme of lockdowns has continued to play a significant part in my cancer experience, and across my marking of the eight Festivals that I celebrate.
In 2021, we came out of a lockdown on June 10th, but went back into lockdown July 15th (yes, I was still in hospital post surgery).
In 2020, we had left the first lockdown in May, but went back into lockdown July 08th.
Last year, at Samhain, I was so focussed on life because I was carrying death in my breasts. This year, it’s lighter. I have, however, learnt a lot about death. Samhain feels more intimate than it ever has before.
Winter Solstice 2022
At Samhain I was reviewing my sacrifices and the changes in my life. In some ways, given how radically chemotherapy impacted my ability to function, it felt like death.
Consequently, for the Winter Solstice this year, I am celebrating relearning how to operate independently. It’s aligned with the themes of rest, recovery, convalescence. I had physio today, I have remedial pilates tomorrow: these are important points in my journal from February through to now, so I made them part of my markers for the Winter Solstice.
Observations, prayer, ritual
I often have some kind of project that spans the period of the Solstice, but it’s also focused on my birthday.
In 2019, I worked out 99 days before my birthday and started curating compliments that were not based in or on physical attributes or beauty. I called it the Compliment Project.
Acts of Kindness was my choice for the 12 Days of Yule another year.
These kinds of projects align with my ideas of what the magic of Christmas/Yule is about: kindness, generosity, connection (the Return of the Light/Sun).
For three years, I worked with the same set of thirteen Meditations across the Winter Solstice period.
Main times Winter Solstice
This festival is a Solar Festival – there are four; the two Equinoxes and the two Solstices.
For me, the main times I mark in some way are sunset Solstice Eve, sunrise and sunset Solstice Day, and sunrise the day after the Solstice.
Candles / Fire
There are always candles through from the Autumn Equinox through to the Spring Equinox. So candles and incense (fire and air) are part of what I use on my shrines and in my rituals / meditations for the Equinoxes, Samhain, Winter Solstice, and the Quickening.
Winter Solstice is the longest night, so typically I will burn candles overnight.
🔥 be fire smart when using candles, fire, even incense in your rituals.
The only time I don’t use much in the way of candles or fire or burn incense is from either the Spring Equinox or Beltaine (depending upon how early the bushfires start) through until Harvest Festival or Autumn Equinox (again, depending upon fire season).
I often read from Ceisiwr Serith‘s books; both A Book of Pagan Prayer and A Pagan Ritual Prayer Book.
Yesterday (and the year past) has gone to the Ancestors.
Today is a new life.
From the Ancestors I ask the continuing wisdom of yesterday and from the Mysterious Ones*; the continuing guidance for today (and the year to come).Ceisiwr Serith
*Change from Gods to Mysterious Ones.
I’ll revisit various Winter Solstice blog posts that have resonated with me (some links below).
For that matter – if you have any book recommendations or blog posts that you think I might enjoy – feel free to pop them in the comments.
My other blog posts pertinent to the Winter Solstice
- Wrap Anniversary (2019)
- Blog Anniversary (2019)
- NAIDOC WEEK First Week of July (2019)
Other blog posts about the Winter Solstice: a deeper dive
- Hekate Devotion: Winter Solstice/Yule
- Happy Summer Solstice, Tomorrow! The Planets Join to Celebrate with us this year!
- ACKNOWLEDGING THE WINTER SOLSTICE IS A DECOLONIAL ACT FOR INDIGENOUS PEOPLE
- Welcoming Back the Child of Promise
- Yule Story
- The Omen Days: The Twelve Days of Christmas
- WINTER SOLSTICE SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE
- The June Solstice Down Under
- The Longest Night
- Winter Solstice – A Solitary Ritual
- Winter Solstice
Australian Festivals: A Quick Reference Guide
It can be difficult in Australia to find resources that address the Southern Hemisphere or Australia. Here are some starting resources that I myself have:
Australian Druidry: Connecting with the Sacred Landscape by Julie Brett
Dancing the Sacred Wheel: A Journey through the Southern Sabbats by Frances Billinghurst
PaGaian Cosmology by Glenys Livingstone